Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
By GRAHAM WATTON
Captain Cook's venture up the Waihou River 200 years ago was re-enacted on the afternoon of 20-11-69 near the spot where the great navigator landed, about 1½ miles north of Netherton. An estimated crowd of 3,000 including some 2,000 school children from Ohinemuri and the Hauraki Plains awaited Cook and his party as they rowed up the river to the area used by the Netherton Water Ski Club at Sarjant's Corner.
Two hundred years ago to the day, the Endeavour had sailed along the Thames Coast and anchored off Waiomu. Because of shallow water, further exploration up the firth and into the river, was continued by longboat. Cook's diary tells of the natives seen along the river and how his party had landed at one of the villages where the Maoris had welcomed him with open arms.
At a spot about 14 miles up river he again landed to view the lofty trees. Measurements gave the girth of one mighty specimen as being more than 19 feet and the height to the lowest branch 89 feet. These observations formed the basis of the re-enactment of the landing. During the row up-river, the Kerepehi Maori Cultural Group entertained with several items and a group of children from the Paeroa Central School under the control of Mrs. C. Tricklebank took part in several games which the Maori children of the Pa had played 200 years ago.
A party of "young warriors" performed several fearsome hakas as the visitors came ashore and "Captain Cook" accepted the challenge from Mr. D. Paraku of Paeroa. He then met the "Chief" of the area, played by Mr. J. Te Moananui. Formal greetings over, the "Captain" spoke to the crowd, outlining his voyage of discovery and ventures around the New Zealand coast, after which he named the river "Thames".
Commenting on the stand of Kahikatea "Cook" took measurements of one of the four trees nearby. (These were about 30 feet high and had been "planted" on the bank of the river as recently as the day before! The miniature white pines were in keeping with the size of the model of the "Endeavour" beside them. The ship had not been lowered into the water because of difficulties involved in obtaining 5 tons of ballast and the possibility of damage).
(The "cast" for the re-enactment was: Captain Cook - Mr. G.H.B. Pinnook; Joseph Banks - Mr. P. Buckley; Dr. Solander - Mr. T. Erskin; Lieutenant Pikersgill - Mr. A.M. Isdale (who wrote the script); Tupia (Interpreter) - Mr. B. Watene).
The Chairman of the Hauraki Plains County Council, Mr. H.W. Hayward, welcomed the gathering on behalf of his council and the Paeroa Borough Council, the two local bodies having combined to organise the event. The Mayor of Paeroa, Mr. G.E. Lee said how pleased he was that they had co-operated so effectively on such a worthy project.
The final ceremony was the unveiling of a cairn to mark the occasion and also the spot where Captain Cook did actually land. This was carried out by the Rev. L.M. Rogers who until recently was President of the Paeroa Historical Society, but who now resides in Tauranga. He opened his address speaking fluent Maori and then translated it, referring to the gathering as an operation of good-will between Maori and Pakeha.
Pointing out that Cook showed tremendous courage when he set out for the unknown, making his maps as he went, Mr. Rogers called on the people present to display similar courage so that N.Z. might be assured of outstanding peace, progress and prosperity.
On this particularly hot day the children were invited to have a welcome drink at the Netherton School while adults were entertained by the Netherton Country Women's Institute. It was certainly a day for all to remember. Both the Netherton School and the Country Women's Institute provided welcome refreshments.